by Melinda Myers
Summer has arrived and for many gardeners that means heat, drought and watering bans. This can be hard on gardeners as well as their landscapes. The good news is there are ways to help plants thrive despite these seasonal challenges. Adjusting landscape care accordingly during the summer months can not only provide relief for lawns and gardens, but also for the gardener. Here are some low-maintenance eco-friendly ways gardeners can keep their landscapes looking their best throughout the summer months, while beating the heat:
• Water plants thoroughly to promote deep drought- and pest-resistant roots. Wait until the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist or footprints remain in the lawn before watering again.
• Avoid light, frequent watering that encourages shallow roots. Shallow roots are less able to tolerate drought and more susceptible to disease and insect problems.
• Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or shredded bark mulch over the soil in garden beds and around trees and shrubs. Mulching conserves moisture, keeps roots cool and moist, and suppresses weeds.
• Mow lawns high. Taller grass produces deeper roots that are more drought-tolerant. A deeply rooted lawn is also more resistant to insects, disease and other environmental stresses.
• Always mow lawns often enough, so you remove less than one third the total leaf surface. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn. They add nitrogen, organic matter and moisture to the soil.
• Use a low-nitrogen slow-release fertilizer, like Milorganite, to give gardens and lawns a nutrient boost. This organic nitrogen fertilizer remains in the soil until the growing conditions are right for the plant.
• Remove weeds from garden beds and borders as soon as they appear. These “plants out of place” steal water and nutrients from your desirable garden plants. Plus, they can harbor insects and diseases that are harmful to your garden plants.
• And don’t forget to take care of yourself while caring for your landscape during the heat of summer. Drink lots of liquid, use sunscreen, and work during the cooler morning and evening hours.
Then when the gardening tasks are done for the day, grab a glass of lemonade, take a seat in the shade and enjoy the beauty of your handiwork.
Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments which air on over 115 TV and radio stations throughout the United States and Canada. She is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds and Blooms magazine and writes the twice monthly “Gardeners’ Questions” newspaper column. Myers also has a column in Gardening How-to magazine. She hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for more than 20 years as well as seven seasons of Great Lakes Gardener on PBS. She has written articles for Better Homes and Gardens and Fine Gardening and was a columnist and contributing editor for Backyard Living magazine. Myers has a master’s degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist and was a horticulture instructor with tenure. Her website is www.melindamyers.com.